The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the provision of Special Educational Needs support for the complainant’s daughter. This is because part of the complaint concerns the actions of a college, and is out of our jurisdiction. The other part is about delay in the provision of an Education and Health Care Plan and the remedy offered by the Council is appropriate.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Mrs L, says that:
- The Council delayed in finalising her daughter (D)’s Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP);
- It delayed in updating her Education Psychology and Speech and Language Therapy assessments;
- It has not held D’s college to accounts for its failings;
- The remedy offered by the Council is too low and is only a Time and Trouble payment; and
- The college did not provide an appropriate and adequate education for D, causing her to leave her course early.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mrs L, and I sent her a draft decision for her comments.
What I found
- In April 2016, the Council notified Mrs L that the needs assessment process for D’s EHCP was to begin. However, although draft plans were issued in August 2016 and December 2016, the final EHCP was not produced until May 2017.
- The Council agrees that it did not complete the EHCP within the statutory timescales.
- During this process, Mrs L asked for D’s EP and SALT assessments to be updated. The Council agrees that it failed to complete them within the statutory timescales. It felt that the existing assessments were recent enough to provide the needed information. It undertook, however, to produce the assessments by the end of July.
- The Council has offered a time and trouble payment for the delays. It is within the LGO’s guidelines, and I regard it as acceptable. Further investigation is unlikely to recommend a higher financial remedy for this element of the complaint.
- Mrs L has also complained that the College did not made adequate and appropriate educational provision for D, and that the Council did not supervise its offer closely enough, or hold it to account for the failings alleged by Mrs L.
- The Ombudsman is unable to consider this part of the complaint, as we are not allowed to look at the curriculum or other provision made by a school or college. Although we can consider the Council’s strategic allocation and monitoring of schools’ use of SEN funding, we cannot look at its response to complaints about the day to day management of SEN provision.
- I will not investigate the complaint. Part of it is about provision within a college and so out of our jurisdiction, and I regard the remedy offered for the Council’s admitted faults to be appropriate.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman